Mixed-Used Real Estate: A Blend of Housing, Work, Shops, and Social Objectives in One Place - Fifth Avenue REM mediaiqdigital tracking pixel
Market Intelligence, Real Estate News | April 23, 2023

There was a time when mixed-use real estate transit-oriented development was believed to be the key to revitalizing cities and creating complete, compact communities across the Burrard Peninsula to the Fraser Valley.

However, today, station nodes are expected to offer a complete range of services that fulfill various civic objectives, such as addressing the housing crisis, creating job spaces, and providing public spaces and services that can turn places into popular destinations. The PCI Group has had a front-row seat to this transformation, partly due to design and partly due to circumstances. In 2008, it began the Crossroads project opposite the Broadway-City Hall station, which densified an underutilized site in anticipation of the opening of the Canada rapid transit line the following year. Following the same model, the group completed Marine Gateway in South Vancouver in 2016 at the Marine Drive station and bus loop, combining office, residential, retail, and entertainment spaces. Meanwhile, King George Hub in Surrey progressed with its five-phase plan of residential, retail, and office spaces anchored by the Coast Capital Savings Credit Union.

TransLink Ventures into Development as a New Role

TransLink backed both projects in the past, but now, as the Millennium line extends westward under the Broadway corridor in Vancouver, PCI is spearheading development projects at South Granville and partnering directly with TransLink at Arbutus.

“The Arbutus project, announced on March 30th, is an extension of the work that we’ve done alongside TransLink as neighboring stakeholders, especially around the stations,” said Tim Grant, President of PCI Developments Corp. “We approach this project using the same essential principles that guided our previous transit-oriented developments.”

The project will occupy two parcels, one owned by PCI and the other by TransLink, and will mainly feature rental housing, with 20% of the units designated for below-market tenants. The development will also have retail space at street level and a section reserved for the Jewish organization Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel.

Relaxed parking requirements and height restrictions have been incorporated to promote the mix of uses and to capitalize on the property’s proximity to transit. This was an issue with Crossroads, where municipal parking requirements surpassed actual needs.

Increased density, enabled by relaxed height requirements, allows for more units to be built, resulting in a reduction in the break-even cash flow required for each rental unit. This is critical for rental projects that require financial viability even when rent increases are limited. The planned Arbutus development will have more than 200 rental units, with up to 30 storeys, while Crossroads had only eight storeys with 88 condos.

According to Grant, height and density are critical in building below-market rental housing. Condo housing and a substantial retail component were the result of the strict height requirements during the Crossroads era.

There is also a growing interest in mixing uses close to transit. Most large redevelopment projects now have some element that fulfills civic aspirations, whether it’s acquiring social licenses or creating a sense of place and identity for a project. Some developers of multifamily rental projects in the Lower Mainland, for example, are exploring the idea of incorporating lobby bars, co-working spaces, and entertainment amenities into their projects to create a stronger sense of community.

The Importance of Tenant Mix

Ensuring a cohesive development after construction relies on careful planning, including thoughtful allocation of operating expenses and space. According to Karen West, the Operations Director of Sales and Marketing with Boffo, the easement agreements must be well-thought-out to ensure harmonious living for all. This planning must extend to low-priority aspects such as parking, garbage access, and window cleaning. Additionally, the selection of occupants is crucial, and Boffo is selective about its tenant selection process to ensure the right fit for each development. The Smithe in downtown Vancouver is an example of Boffo’s patience and dedication to finding the perfect tenants, as they prioritize long-term success over quick occupancy.

This article was originally written by Peter Mitham for BIV



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